Prof. I. Logan's Critique of 'Sustainability'

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Click HERE to view Professor Ikubolajeh Logan's talk about the limitations of current conceptions of development and sustainability, as they are implemented in sub-Saharan Africa, and the discussion.

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Professor Logan’s speech was both persuasive and impressive. Logan discussed the Western geographical views of Africa, the conflict of sustainable development in Africa, African ideas of poverty, and the African philosophy of Ubuntu. In addressing these issues, Professor Logan clearly defines many legitimate problems that stem from epistemological differences between Africa and the Western world. But in addition to his diagnosis of these African dilemmas, Professor Logan also points to actual instances of these problems that exist in Africa. And even more impressive, Professor Logan offers the beginnings of a solution to these dilemmas.
I found Professor Logan’s discussion of wild-life preservation to be exceptionally interesting. In the Western world, there is an obvious movement that seeks to defend earth. I wouldn’t say that this movement is a grand sweeping social movement, but I’d agree that it at least exists. In this quest, we often look to help endangered species, thus promoting biodiversity. But Professor Logan illuminated some of the difficulty in this quest, by explaining the problem Africa has with preserving the species of elephants. Global tendency toward biodiversity preservation has allowed for a unified effort to protect elephant populations. But as Logan noted, this may also harm the African people. Airports are closed with elephants on the tarmac, crops are lost due to elephant stampedes, and villagers lose their lives to elephants. All the while, before Western contact, and even until very recently, the elephant population had been well regulated.
This to me was interesting. We do support environmentalism, but when we try to execute it, we’ll never work in our own backyard. It is easy to support environmental change, so long as it doesn’t take place on our own soil. Instead of protecting our own wildlife, we protect Africa’s wildlife. This is a grievous error. When you think about it, most preserved wildlife is in Africa and Asia. It is easy to support environmentalism so long as we don’t have to change. Professor Logan notes that western methods of environmentalism simply will not succeed in Africa. On this note, Professor Logan is profoundly correct.

Expanding upon theories outlined in his article, “African Environment and Development,” Professor Ikubolajeh Logan spoke in class about the shortcomings of the “sustainable development” model of progress in Africa. Professor Logan explained that “sustainable development” actually contributes to the domination of African communities, and does little to contribute to poverty alleviation. I found it personally interesting to hear his thoughts, considering that I have only ever heard of sustainable development in positive terms. It was interesting to hear how, beyond the hype, this environmental paradigm is not as effective as those propagating the term would like us to believe.
One of the major tenets of Professor Logan’s argument seems to be that sustainable development programs do not place enough emphasis on local community involvement, but instead focus on globalized agendas. Although sustainable development seeks to protect future generations, it often does so at the expense of the present generation. Professor Logan gave a fascinating example that really stood out to me. He said that in one community, elephants have become protected so that local hunters can no longer kill them. The result is an over-population of elephants, which is causing trouble for the local communities. I thought this was an interesting argument because, although wildlife conservation is important, at what point does it become more important than a community of humans? Furthermore, the example shows how local communities are left out of the planning of such programs.
I really appreciate Professor Logan’s first-hand perspectives on the inadequacy of sustainable development programs. It is absolutely essential that any program aimed at helping a community, actually involves the community in the program. It seems like common sense, but, unfortunately, globalized agendas all too often trump community needs.

I found it interesting that Professor Logan asserts that ecological and economical concerns come from countries in the power position and are acted upon regions and countries that are in disarray or lack power. The fact that the West plays such a giant role in environmental issues in the non-West was eye opening.

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